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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines mindfulness practices with cognitive behavioural techniques. MBCT aims to help people cope with negative thoughts and emotions, and prevent relapse of depression and anxiety. One of the benefits of MBCT is that it can foster a sense of self-transcendence, which is the ability to go beyond one’s personal concerns and connect with something larger and more meaningful. self-transcendence can enhance wellbeing, happiness, and resilience. In this article, we will explore how MBCT can promote self-transcendence and what implications this has for mental health and quality of life.

What is MBCT?

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with mindfulness meditation. MBCT aims to help people who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems by teaching them skills to cope with negative thoughts and emotions in a more adaptive way. It involves learning to pay attention to the present moment, without judging or reacting to it, and to cultivate a more compassionate and accepting attitude towards oneself and others. This has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse in people who have experienced major depressive disorder, and to improve symptoms of anxiety, stress, and chronic pain.

How mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works

MBCT teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, without judging or reacting to their thoughts and feelings. This helps them to break the cycle of rumination and avoidance that often triggers depressive episodes. MBCT also helps people to develop self-compassion and acceptance, which can reduce stress and improve well-being.

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One example of how MBCT works is by using the “three-minute breathing space” exercise. This is a short meditation that can be done anytime and anywhere, especially when one feels overwhelmed or distressed. The exercise involves three steps:

  1. Becoming aware of what is happening in one’s body, mind, and surroundings, and acknowledging it without judgment.
  2. Focusing on one’s breathing, and noticing how it changes with each inhalation and exhalation.
  3. Expanding one’s awareness to include the whole body, and sensing how it feels in the present moment.

Another example of how MBCT works is by using the “thoughts as events” technique. This is a way of changing one’s perspective on negative thoughts, and seeing them as passing events rather than facts or truths. The technique involves four steps:

  1. Noticing when a negative thought arises, and labelling it as “thinking”.
  2. Observing the thought as if it were an object or a sound, and noticing its shape, colour, size, movement, etc.
  3. Letting go of the thought, and allowing it to come and go without trying to change it or get rid of it.
  4. Returning one’s attention to the present moment, and focusing on what is happening right now.

These are some examples of how MBCT works, but there are many other exercises and practices that are part of this therapy. MBCT can be learned in a group setting or individually, with the guidance of a trained therapist or instructor.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and self-transcendence

One of the goals of MBCT is to facilitate self-transcendence, which is the ability to go beyond one’s limited sense of self and connect with a larger reality. self-transcendence can enhance wellbeing, meaning, and purpose in life. It can also foster a sense of belonging, altruism, and spirituality.

MBCT can help people achieve self-transcendence by:

  • Teaching them to observe their thoughts and emotions as transient mental events, rather than as reflections of their identity or reality. This can help them detach from their ego and cultivate a more flexible and open perspective.
  • Encouraging them to practice mindfulness in daily activities, such as breathing, walking, eating, or listening. This can help them become more aware of the present moment and appreciate the richness and beauty of life.
  • Guiding them to explore their values and intentions, and to align their actions with them. This can help them find meaning and direction in their lives, and to contribute to the wellbeing of others and the world.
  • Supporting them to cultivate positive emotions, such as gratitude, joy, love, and compassion. This can help them connect with themselves and others on a deeper level, and to experience a sense of awe and wonder.
Further reading

Here is a summary list of weblinks which explore Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in more detail:

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What is MBCT? A brief introduction to the history, principles and benefits of MBCT by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. https://www.oxfordmindfulness.org/learn-mindfulness/what-is-mbct/

MBCT: An Evidence-Based Approach to Preventing Relapse in depression. A comprehensive overview of the research evidence and clinical applications of MBCT by Dr. Zindel Segal, one of the co-developers of MBCT. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc

Mindfulness-Based cognitive Therapy for depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse. The official website of the book by Drs. Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, which provides a detailed description of the MBCT program and its theoretical foundations. https://www.guilford.com/books/Mindfulness-Based-cognitive-Therapy-for-depression/Segal-Williams-Teasdale/9781462507504

Mindfulness-Based cognitive Therapy: Distinctive Features. A concise and accessible guide to the key features and practices of MBCT by Drs. Rebecca Crane and Willem Kuyken, which includes practical exercises and case examples. https://www.routledge.com/Mindfulness-Based-cognitive-Therapy-Distinctive-Features/Crane-Kuyken/p/book/9781138693330

Mindfulness-Based cognitive Therapy Online Course. An interactive online course that teaches the core skills and practices of MBCT, designed by Drs. Mark Williams and Danny Penman, based on their best-selling book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. https://mbct.com/

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